Choosing the Right Flea and Tick Control for Your Pets
There are several ways to prevent and treat ticks. They range in price and time commitment. Powders, sprays, and shampoos can be inexpensive but need to be done frequently while spot treatments and collars generally have a higher price tag but only need to be done monthly or seasonally. Additionally, you can control fleas and ticks in your yard as an added security. Whatever you chose, make sure to read the label to find out how often your product needs to be applied, if water/rain will affect its efficacy, and, most importantly, if there are precautions to keep you pets safe.
There are several, fast-acting and long-lasting (up to four weeks) controls for fleas and ticks that are applied to the household perimeter. These products come in granular form that you sprinkle around your yard, as well as liquids that can be sprayed to create a barrier for fleas, ticks and other creepy-crawlies. Always follow instructions and make sure you understand preventative measures to protect your children and pets from ingesting these chemicals.
Physical Prevention - Check Your Animals Often
Even if your dog/cat is on a treatment, it is still best to check for fleas and ticks after outdoor adventures, particularly those that happen near dry grass and water sources, like rivers and ponds. Ticks like to hide in moist warm places. And since ticks do not jump we usually can start from the bottom up. Between toes, in the elbow creases, under armpits, the groin area, under the tail, and underneath the collar are the most common areas for ticks to hide. While the whole body should be checked pay close attention to those areas. For fleas, look for pinpoint dark-colored insects. Your dog's armpit and groin areas are a favorite fleas. If fleas are present, you may see fleas that move quickly or jump, the skin may look red and bumpy, and you might see larvae.
“Spray-on” flea and tick products are relatively inexpensive and easy to use, and will often prevent and treat infestations. Spray-on products come in a variety of different formulations and you can easily find organic and chemical-based formulas. There are even some DIY spray formulas. The chemical or organic formulations each have their own benefits and drawbacks. The peace of mind when using an organic product can’t be understated. However, chemical sprays will last longer after application. Sprays are best used just before your pet is going into an area where infestation may occur. The lead time for the application can vary from product to product, and many of them will need to be re-applied after swimming. If you are going to spend a lot of time in potentially infested areas this can be a bit of hassle, as they will need to be re-applied more often than other products.
Application tip: Apply your spray onto a towel first. You can use the towel to get the product onto your pet without risking application getting into your pet’s eyes or mouth. Even an organic product may cause irritation if applied to these sensitive areas.
Flea and tick collars have made a bit of a resurgence over the last few years. Collars are a very cheap way to keep your pet flea and tick free. There are a few organic collars that focus on repellency rather than killing. The cheaper versions of flea and tick collars use a very old chemical, the more expensive collars and variations are using some newer chemicals that appear to be much safer for pets. A newer take on the collar is the Spectra Shield Medallion. These control for a long time and claim to have an almost no existent level of toxicity. As mentioned above, there are no organic versions of collars so if you are leery of chemicals, this is not the solution for you. The greatest benefit to a collar or medallion is the continuous control they provide, some up to 4-8 months.
Application tip:Flea and Tick collars need to be somewhat loose fitting. It is the movement that helps move the chemical over your pet's body.
Spot-on treatments have been popular over the last decade. Like collars, there aren't any organic spot-on treatments. There are a few different products to choose from, and many opinions concerning their effectiveness. In general, spot-on treatments last for about a month, they are often sold in three-to-four month packages. Over the years there have been a few reports of dogs reacting negatively to spot-on treatments. Usually, they are associated with hair loss at the application site(s) and don’t seem to be widespread. Spot-on treatments are easy to use and after application can pretty much be forgotten about.
Application tip: Apply outdoors and have a towel ready, as the liquid can sometimes be a bit runny. You will also want to apply at least a day before you go into infested areas so the product has time to travel around your pet’s body.
Removal of Ticks
If a tick should be found it will need to be removed. Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can get. Squeeze firmly and pull straight out using firm steady pressure. Do not twist the tick or try to get it to back out by burning. These do not work and could cause more harm than good. Submerge the tick into rubbing alcohol to kill it. Monitor the site to ensure it is healing properly and to prevent infection. If you have any concerns consult your veterinarian.